The row over the functioning of the International Roerich Memorial Trust has intensified, with the Himachal Pradesh government seeking the removal of the Russian ambassador from the trust. Chief secretary Rajwant Sandhu has asked the union ministry of external affairs to “advise” Russia’s ambassador to India Alexander M Kadakin to withdraw his membership from the Kullu trust, which has Indian and Russian members. Though there have been internal squabbles, the latest move of the state comes in the wake of a decision of the Karnataka high court, which declared the membership of foreign nationals in a trust set up by Roerich in Bangalore to manage its properties as invalid. The order was upheld by the Supreme Court.

Renowned actress Devika Rani Roerich, widow of Russian painter Svetoslav Nikolaevich Roerich, set up the trust in Kullu, Himachal Pradesh, in 1993 to preserve artistic works and extend and administer activities being carried out by members of the Roerich family.

The trust included 12 members with the chief minister as its president. The Russian ambassador and director of International Roerich Centre, Moscow were among the members. After the death of Devika Rani in 1994, the trust continued to function under the chairmanship of Himachal Pradesh chief minister. The trust was reconstituted in 2005 and more Russian members were added to the trust.

The trust courted controversy after Shakti Singh Chandel, a lifetime trustee, raised serious objections on its functioning and upkeep of the belongings of Roerich. Allegations and counter-allegations forced the state to convene a high-level meeting in Shimla and the government ordered an inquiry into the affairs of the trust.

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